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Left more than £2,000 out of pocket after passport confusion

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We booked a last-minute holiday to Malta in August and checked post-Brexit entry requirements on the government website. It stated that passports need to be valid for at least three months after the day you planned to leave Malta, or any other Schengen country. I had five and a half months left on mine. However, when I tried to check in for our Ryanair flight, the airline told me travellers must have at least six months left on their passports in order to fly, and that we would be denied boarding. We therefore lost the £1,200 we’d paid for the holiday, and spent another £1,600 on an alternative week in Cornwall. I can’t be the only person caught out by this confusion about the rules.
MF, Ipswich, Suffolk

Indeed, you are not, and the fault lies, in part, with the Home Office. For nine months it published misleading information about post-Brexit passport requirements to Schengen countries. The guidance on the HM Passport Office website, published in October last year, stated that at least six months must be left on a passport for travel to most European countries.

At the end of July, the government amended the guidance after reports of holidaymakers who had been denied boarding by airlines because of the error. The website now confirms the three-month rule and merely recommends that passports have six months of validity. Since you were due to fly in mid-August, Ryanair should have been aware of the rules and of the government correction. It had no business refusing to fly you. Not that the airline is admitting any fault. “Ryanair complies with all European Commission travel regulations and passengers travelling between the EU and the UK after the end of the transition period must have a passport that is not valid for more than 10 years,” it says, completely missing the point.

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EU requirements do state that passports cannot be valid for more than 10 years (some older UK ones are) but since your passport reaches its 10th anniversary next February that is irrelevant. I pointed this out to Ryanair, but was met with resounding silence. The Home Office also focuses on the irrelevant 10-year rule to save face. Not only does it decline to apologise for misleading travellers, it claims its erroneous advice was doing travellers a favour.

“To avoid the possibility of citizens encountering difficulties at any particular border when complying with these rules, our advice continues to show that any extra months added to a 10-year passport may not count. We make no apology for taking a risk-averse approach to ensure our citizens do not face issues at borders.” When I again asked why, if the government stood by its guidance, it had been quietly rewritten in July, there was no further response.

The good news is that, according to the specialist aviation solicitor Bott & Co, you can try to claim compensation from Ryanair and argue you were denied boarding without reasonable grounds under EC 261/2004 which has, since Brexit, been enshrined in UK law. The bad news is, the sum payable is limited to £350 and that still leaves you more than £2,000 out of pocket.

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